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Humanity in The Epic of Gilgamesh

            The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient poem from the Mesopotamian Era that tells the story of two companions: Gilgamesh, the powerful and tyrannical demigod who rules as the King of Uruk, and Enkidu, a feral man who is created as an equal for the king by the gods, lifted out of nature and civilized by the touch of woman. After becoming friends, the two mighty men become restless, as they share the same desire for immortality. They go on a quest for everlasting life, which involves trekking into the wilderness to defeat Humbaba, the monstrous Guardian of the Cedars and representation of nature. However, even though the two vanquish this creature, they both fail to become divine beings, and die separate deaths as mere mortals. Throughout the epic, there is a reoccurring conflict between humanity and death, though it often appears to be a battle of nature and humanity. Humans cannot be opposed to nature, if nature is life, and, in their fight against death, they are reaching for eternal life; additionally, all the gods, whom the Mesopotamian people so dutifully worship, are embodying different aspects of nature; and nature also brings them the plants, animals, and materials they need for life. Humanity is not opposed to nature, it is only opposed to an aspect of it, the inevitable end of life. The fact that humans die and are conscious and afraid of this fact also allows them to have the best position in the order of the Mesopotamian cosmos. The Epic of Gilgamesh stresses that these cosmos involve three main categories of beings: animals, humans, and Gods. Subtly through each tablet, the epic places the position of human beings as the best kind of existence through showing the reader how unconscious the mind of an animal is, the arrogance and tyranny that comes with being a God, and the blessed, but limited life that humans have. The Epic of Gilgamesh proves to the reader that humans' consciousness of their inevitable death, while a daunting fate, is a factor in their actions, choices, and view of life.

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